Survey: Ohioans Show Strong Support of Local Foods
Molly Bean Smith, Human and Community Resource Development
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In 2008, Ohioans continued to support local food systems, with the number reporting “frequently” purchasing locally grown or produced foods remaining steady since 2006. That’s according to the 2008 Ohio Survey of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Issues, a mail survey conducted earlier this year by Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
“Over 75 percent of Ohioans said they ‘occasionally’ or ‘frequently’ bought foods that are locally grown or produced in both our 2006 and 2008 surveys,” said Molly Bean Smith, research associate with the college’s Social Responsibility Initiative.
The survey, conducted every two years since 2002, was mailed to 3,500 randomly selected Ohioans between March and June 2008. The response rate was over 48 percent, which is favorable for this type of mail survey. The effort is coordinated by Jeff Sharp, associate professor of rural sociology in the Department of Human and Community Resource Development. Sharp also has appointments with Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
Just over half of the respondents reported spending more than $50 on farm products or food items directly from a farmer during the previous year, Smith said, including 18 percent who said they spent more than $200, and 6 percent who spent more than $500. The 19 percent of respondents who said they frequently purchase foods directly from a farmer spent a median of $200 during the course of the growing season.
Survey respondents also indicated that they think it is important for state and local governments to develop stronger local foods systems throughout the state. A strong majority, 64 percent, said they thought such work was “very” important, while 34 percent said it was “somewhat” important and a scant 2 percent saying “not” important, Smith said.
Among other findings:
- Predictably, fewer Ohioans reported visits to pick-your-own farms (6 percent frequent visitors; 32 percent occasional visitors) than to farmer’s markets and roadside stands (23 percent frequent; 56 percent occasional).
- Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents reported they grow their own fruits or vegetables, and 38 percent of respondents indicated they can or freeze fresh vegetables that they grow or purchase. Sixty-two percent of gardeners reported spending $51 or more on farm and food products directly from a farmer, including 15 percent who reported spending $200 to $500 and 8 percent who reported spending more than $500.
- At 59 percent, people who reside in the countryside (not on a farm) reported the highest levels of purchasing at least $50 of goods directly from a farmer; those who live in a city reported the lowest level, at 43 percent.
- At 63 percent, Ohioans residing in northwest Ohio reported the highest level of purchasing at least $50 of goods directly from a farmer; those who live in central Ohio reported the lowest level, at 44 percent.
The entire report, as well as past reports, can be viewed online at http://ohiosurvey.osu.edu/publications/food.html.
Support for the survey comes from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; the Department of Human and Community Resource Development; Ohio State University Extension; and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.